Farming lessons from cannabis growers

When it comes to producing very high yields per square foot of growing space there are very few who can come close to the yields produced by commercial cannabis growers. The wikipedia page on cannabis cultivation is an epic 11,000 word overview that provides a huge amount of detail on different techniques and solutions available for growers and this barely even scratches the surface of what is available online.

urban farm hydroponic grower

Cannabis farms are highly illegal in most of the western world and as a result are often concealed indoors away from the prying eyes of the authorities. As a result of this, farms are frequently kept in windowless rooms such as basements, loft spaces or warehouses and sheds. One of the results of this, other than being able to evade detection, is that the growers have 100% control over the farm’s environment with levels of temperature, water and light all fully managed by the farmer. This tight level of control gives organised growers laboratory conditions for maximizing yields per square foot.

the farm’s environment

Farmers use a wide variety of techniques to squeeze every last drop of growth productivity out of the plants with techniques such as reducing the number of hours of sunlight a plant gets after a fixed growth period to invoke a hormone response that increases the harvest weight, controlling and changing the food inputs depending on the plant growth cycle stage and so on. If the research and rigour applied to cannabis farming could be applied to legal urban farming of food plants, urban farming could become very profitable for farmers in small spaces.

Fields

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Farmers build a rooftop farm in Basel, Switzerland

Two urban farmers Roman Gaus and Andreas Graber from Berlin are realizing their dream of a rooftop farm following a successful trial and demonstration with a small mobile aquaponic farm built around a standard shipping container. Each miniature farm produces enough fresh vegetables and fish to feed three people for a year and uses 90% less water than traditional farming as most of the waste water is returned to the system instead of draining off away from the food production area.

UrbanFarmers Box

Their simple yet effective solution consists a barrel of fresh water fish inside the shipping container and a small greenhouse situated above. The waste products of the fish are the ideal nutrients for the plants which are grown hydroponically using the water the fish live in.

In his excellent presentation, Roman describes the current state of rural agriculture and need for a solution for the growing population with a finite amount of farming land. He discusses the potential for an aquaponics based solution that brings us much closer to a closed loop system by recycling the waste products of fish farming into food for plants. Following the successful trial and demonstration of the single unit box farm, Roman and Andreas have designed and are almost finished building their first rooftop farm in Basel, Switzerland which will produce 5 tonnes of fresh vegetables and 800 kilograms of fish per year; enough to feed 100 people from the otherwise unused roof space of one small building!…

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Farmers for Chicago, a Network for Farmers

The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has launched a program to create five acres of urban farmland in the city of Chicago over the next three years. Plots have been allocated on vacant city owned land in a move to create jobs and educate local residents on aspects of food production that usually takes place far away, out of sight and out of mind.

Urban Farm Network Chicago

Local farm collectives are set to work with the city to offer a training program to those struggling to find work. Like other initiatives that help people develop new skills to open doors on new employment opportunities, the hope is that graduates will not only have a greater understanding of where their food comes from but they will also have the knowledge and skills to continue on with their own farms and commercial food production ventures. By keeping the farms in close proximity the city is aiming to build a close network of urban farmers who can share knowledge and train others, spreading the knowledge further and bringing benefit to the whole community.

“Once made available, these vacant lots will help stabilize communities by bringing productive activity to areas that need it around food deserts. Farmers for Chicago will give local residents a chance to not only learn how to grow food in their communities, but also build their own food enterprise.” – Mayer Emanuel.

Urban Farming Chicago

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